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Introducing Vatican City, Borgo & Prati

The Vatican, the world’s smallest sovereign state (a mere 0.44 sq km), sits atop the low-lying Vatican hill a few hundred metres west of the Tiber. Centred on the domed bulk of St Peter’s Basilica, it boasts some of Italy’s most celebrated masterpieces, many housed in the vast Vatican Museums.

You’ll need at least a morning to do justice to the Vatican Museums. The highlight is the Michelangelo-decorated Sistine Chapel, but there’s enough art on display to keep you busy for years. If you’re with a tour guide, or if you can sneakily join a tour group, you can pass directly from the Sistine Chapel through to St Peter’s Basilica; otherwise you’ll have to walk around and approach from St Peter's Square, itself one of the Vatican’s most dramatic sights. Once finished in the basilica, you’ll probably be ready for a break. There are few good eating options in the Vatican itself, but the graceful residential district of Prati is full of excellent trattorias, takeaways and restaurants.

Between the Vatican and the river lies the cobbled, medieval district of the Borgo – before Mussolini bulldozed Via dei Conciliazione through the area, all the streets around St Peter’s were like this. The big sight here is Castel Sant’Angelo, the big drum-shaped castle overlooking the river.

The Vatican, Borgo and Prati districts are all easy to reach by public transport. Most people arrive by metro, getting off at the Ottaviano–San Pietro metro station, or by bus from Stazione Termini or the centro storico.